Leadership and Rhetoric: Some Concluding Thoughts [Part 5 of 5]

If we are going to be effective in the leadership of organizations, regardless of the kind of organization or even our roles within the organization, we need to cultivate the capacity for effective oral communication – whether in larger settings or in smaller committee meetings.   To that end, keep the following in mind – along with all the points made so far in this series of blog postings. 

First, that oral communication is often the complement to written communication and that writing out what we are gong to say strengthens the communication substantially.  Even if we do not in the end read a text – though that is often appropriate and some of the best speeches ever given were from full texts, even if they were a memorized TED talk  – the exercise of writing it out brings clarity and precision to our remarks.

Second, even if you use a written script, memorize key portions so you can maintain eye contact with your hearers through those crucial pieces of your presentation – the introduction, the conclusion and then perhaps the heart of the argument or main point you are seeking to make.   Note:  this is particularly important if you are speaking through a video conference camera (that is, with this technology,  it is doubly important to maintain eye contact). 

Third, remember that longer is not necessarily more effective; clear and concise goes much further than wordiness.    Note:  as a rule always stay well within your limits as an invited speaker – simply resolve you will go no longer than you have been invited to speak and thus you work over and revise and revise again so that your text fits within the time limit that has been given you [if they say 10 minutes, speak for 9 minutes]. 

Fourth, as a rule, there is only one point that a hearer will both hear and that they will take away from your presentation    This does not mean you only have one point; but, as a rule, each hearer will only hear one thing and thus having a presentation that has defining point but then also some key auxiliary points is appropriate.   Recognize you will have diverse responses to what you are presenting. 

Fifth, remember that in all public communication – whether a Sunday sermon, a graduate lecture in a theological seminary, a report to a church board – you are engaging heart and mind.   Always.   You are therefore always thoughtful while also attending to the emotional quotient in the room. 

And finally, find a way to see if you are using the same words again and again so that they have lost their meaning.   So many public speakers overuse the word “just” so much so that this word has just simply lost its meaning! (J)   But, guilty as charged:  I watched the video I did in December of 2020 for the “friends of Ambrose university” and I was chagrined to hear myself use the word “indeed” again and again and . . . again!   I cringed. Thus the value of either asking a friend to alert you to an overused word or to hear a recording of your own presentation so you can hear it yourself.  An over-used word or phrase loses its power and meaning through overuse.

Institutional Intelligence is the capacity to work effectively within organizations.